Ulrich Herbert

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Ulrich Herbert, Freiburg 2014

Ulrich Herbert (born September 24, 1951 in Düsseldorf ) is a German historian . He is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg im Breisgau .


From 1971 to 1975 Herbert studied history, folklore and German at the University of Freiburg. He then worked as a high school teacher. From 1980 to 1985 he worked in the research project "Life history and social culture in the Ruhr area 1930-1960", led by Lutz Niethammer . In 1985 he was with a thesis on " foreign workers " in the " Third Reich " doctorate . This book quickly became the basis for public discussion of the history of forced laborers in the Nazi era and the lack of compensation. From 1987 to 1988 he was a Research Fellow at the Institute for German History at Tel Aviv University .

His habilitation thesis at the Fernuniversität Hagen in 1992 dealt with the biography of the National Socialist Werner Best , whose career Herbert traced from the beginnings as a völkisch-radical student to the position of Reinhard Heydrich's deputy in the Reich Security Main Office until he rose again in the post-war period as legal counsel at Stinnes .

From 1992 to 1995 Herbert was director of the Research Center for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg , where he initiated and promoted the work of Karin Orth and Michael Wildt .

He then moved to the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Freiburg, to which he has remained loyal to this day despite many calls. Herbert has presented numerous publications, especially on the history of National Socialism , the history of migration in the 20th century and the history of the Federal Republic. In 1998 he published the volume National Socialist Destruction Policy, 1939 to 1945 , which presented research work by younger German Holocaust researchers and has been translated into many languages. In 2003 the volume History of Foreign Policy in Germany was published (in a first version as early as 1986), in which the development from the recruitment of seasonal workers in the years around 1900 to the forced laborers of the Nazi era, the "guest workers" of the 1960s and the asylum seekers the 1980s and 1990s is being tracked.

From 2000 to 2008 Herbert and Rüdiger vom Bruch headed a research group that investigated the history of the German Research Foundation from 1920 to 1970. The project comprised 19 individual projects, and by 2010 eleven volumes on the history of the DFG had been published. In addition, Herbert headed the research projects “Weltanschauung and dictatorship” and “Liberalization and integration processes in West Germany, 1950–1980”. Herbert coined the term ultra-modern .

Ulrich Herbert (second from right) at the Historikertag 2014

Since 2005, together with Horst Möller , Susanne Heim and others, he has published the edition “Persecution and Murder of Jews in Europe”, which is supposed to offer a comprehensive overview of the sources and documents of the Holocaust in 16 volumes.

He is co-editor of the Journal for Modern European History and several book series, including the series European History in the 20th Century , which deals with the history of initially ten European states and their mutual connections. He wrote the volume on the history of Germany in the 20th century, published in 2014.

Herbert was a member of the Science Council from 2001 to 2007 , where from 2005 to 2007 he headed the “Humanities” working group, whose “Recommendations for the Development and Promotion of the Humanities in Germany” had a lasting effect on the discussion about the situation in this subject group. Herbert also campaigned against the so-called 12-year limitation, which forbade academic staff at universities who were only employed on a temporary basis after 12 years from continuing their employment. The law has since been changed. From 2007 to 2013 he and Jörn Leonhard headed the School of History of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) at the University of Freiburg , which was founded as part of the Excellence Initiative .

In 1999 Herbert received the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation, one of the most important German awards for scientists. In 2014 he was awarded the Bavarian Book Prize in the “Non-Fiction” category for his book “History of Germany in the 20th Century”. In 2018 he received the Ruhr Prize for Art and Science .

Fonts (selection)


  • The Third Reich : History of a Dictatorship . CH Beck, Munich 2016, 3rd edition 2018, ISBN 978-3406722400 (a brief overview of the latest research)
  • History of Germany in the 20th Century. Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66051-1 . Review here.
  • History of foreigner policy in Germany. Seasonal workers, forced laborers, guest workers, refugees. Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-47477-4 .
  • Best. Biographical studies on radicalism, worldview and reason. 1903-1989. Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-8012-5030-X .
  • Work, folklore, worldview. About Germans and Foreigners in the 20th Century. Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-596-12648-7 .
  • History of the employment of foreigners in Germany from 1880 to 1980. Seasonal workers, forced laborers, guest workers. JHW Dietz successor, Bonn 1986, ISBN 978-3-8012-3019-7 .
  • Foreign workers. Politics and practice of the "deployment of foreigners" in the war economy of the Third Reich. Berlin / Bonn 1985, ISBN 3-8012-0108-2 . Multiple editions, 3rd edition 1999, ISBN 3-8012-5028-8 . English edition as
    • Hitler's foreign workers - Enforced foreign labor in Germany under the Third Reich . Cambridge University Press, New York 1997.



  • The German professor in the Third Reich. Four biographical sketches. In: Karin Orth, Willi Oberkrome (ed.): The German Research Foundation 1920–1970. Research funding in the field of tension between science and politics , Stuttgart 2010, pp. 483–503.
  • What did the National Socialists learn from the First World War? In: Gerd Krumeich (Ed.): National Socialism and First World War , Essen 2010, pp. 21–35.
  • National Socialist and Stalinist Rule: The Possibilities and Limits of Comparison. In: Manfred Hildermeier (Ed.): Historical Concepts between Eastern and Western Europe (= New German Historical Perspectives , 1) , New York / Oxford 2007, pp. 5–22.
  • Europe in HighModern Era. Reflections on a Theory of the 20th Century. In: JMEH 5, 2007, pp. 5-21.
  • The Second World War in European History. In: Bernd Martin (Ed.): The Second World War and its consequences. Events, effects, reflections , Freiburg 2006, pp. 315–338.
  • Three political generations in the 20th century. In: Jürgen Reulecke (Ed.): Generationality and Life History in the 20th Century , Munich 2003, pp. 95–115.
  • The historians' dispute. Political, scientific, biographical aspects. In: Martin Sabrow u. a. (Ed.): Contemporary history as a history of controversy. Great controversies after 1945 , Munich 2003, pp. 94–114.
  • Employment, social security and social integration of foreigners. In: History of social policy in Germany since 1945 , Vols. 2–7 and 11, Baden-Baden 2001 ff. (With Karin Hunn).
  • The Holocaust and German Society. In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke (Ed.): Auschwitz. Six essays on happening and visualization , Dresden 2001, pp. 19–36.
  • Intellectuals in the “Third Reich”. In: Gangolf Hübinger , Thomas Hertfelder (ed.): Critique and Madat. Intellectuals in German Politics , Stuttgart 2000, pp. 160–181.
  • Forced Laborers in the Third Reich: An Overview. In: International Labor and Working-Class History, 58, 2000, pp. 192-219.
  • Academic and Public Discourses on the Holocaust: The Goldhagen Debate in Germany. In: German Politics and Society , 17, No. 3, 1999, pp. 35-54.
  • “The century of the camps”: causes, manifestations, effects. In: Peter Reif-Sperek, Bodo Ritscher (ed.): Special camp in the SBZ. Memorials with a “double past” , Berlin 1999, pp. 11–20.
  • Three German pasts. On dealing with the history of the two German dictatorships in the 20th century. In: Martin Sabrow u. a. (Ed.): Double contemporary history. German-German relations 1945–1990 , Bonn 1998, pp. 376–390.
  • Worldview elites. Ideological legitimation and political practice of the leadership group of the National Socialist Security Police. In: Potsdamer Bulletin for Contemporary History Studies , No. 9, Potsdam 1997, pp. 4-19.
  • "The real Mystery in Germany": The German Working Class during the Nazi Dictatorship. In: Michael Burleigh (ed.): Confronting the Nazis Past. New Debates on Modern German History , London 1996, pp. 23-36.
  • The right question. In: Julius H. Schoeps (Ed.): A people of murderers? The documentation on the Goldhagen controversy about the role of the Germans in the Holocaust , Hamburg 1996, pp. 212–224.
  • Return to bourgeoisie? Nazi elites in the Federal Republic. In: Bernd Weisbrod (Ed.): Right-wing radicalism in Lower Saxony after 1945 , Hildesheim 1995, pp. 1–17.
  • The German occupation policy in Denmark during World War II and the rescue of the Danish Jews. In: Tel Aviver Yearbook for German History , 23, 1994, pp. 93–114.
  • Racism and Rational Calculation. The Role of “Utilitarian” Strategies of Legitimation in the National Socialist “Weltanschauung”. In: Yad Vashem Studies , 24, 1994, pp. 131-147.
  • "Riparazione": I costi del passato tedesco. In: Hans Woller (Ed.): La nascita di due repubbliche. Italia e Germania dal 1943 al 1955 , Milan 1993, pp. 56-65.
  • From strolling around at work to gang fighting. Opposition and Resistance of Foreign Forced Laborers in Germany, 1939–1945. In: Klaus-J. Müller, David N. Dilks (Ed.): Great Britain and the German Resistance , Paderborn 1993.
  • Labor and Extermination: Economic Interests and the Primacy of "Weltanschauung" in National Socialism. In: Past and Present , 138, 1993, pp. 144-195.
  • "Generation of Objectivity". The Volkish student movement in Germany in the early 1920s. In: Frank Bajohr u. a. (Ed.): Civilization and barbarism. The contradicting potentials of modernity , Hamburg 1991, pp. 115–144.
  • The dynamics of violence. The failed attempt to resolve the National Socialist crisis. In: Lutz Niethammer u. a .: Civil society in Germany , Frankfurt a. M. 1990, pp. 413-514.
  • Workers in the “Third Reich”. Interim balance and open questions. In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 15, 1989, p. 320 ff.
  • Not eligible for compensation? The foreigners' claims for reparation. In: Ludolf Herbst , Constantin Goschler (ed.): Reparation in the Federal Republic of Germany , Munich 1989, pp. 273-302.
  • The good times and the bad. Reflections on the diachronic analysis of biographical interviews. In: Lutz Niethammer (Ed.): “You don't know the years where to put them today.” Experiences with fascism in the Ruhr area. (= Life history and social culture in the Ruhr area, 1930 to 1960 , Volume 1), Berlin / Bonn 1983, pp. 67–96.


Web links

Commons : Ulrich Herbert  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ School of History at FRIAS .
  2. A very positive review comes from Gregor Schöllgen : From the end of many clichés - The "Third Reich" compact In: FAZ , October 11, 2016, p. 6.
  3. Thomas Schmid on May 20, 2014 in Die Welt under the title Rätsel Deutschland. How the land of murderers became a land of freedom .